With the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) split on the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Joint Opposition’s bid to oust Wickremesinghe seems to be doomed.
The Sri Lankan parliament is currently debating the NCM moved by the Joint Opposition (JO) led by former President Mahnida Rajapaksa on Wednesday. The vote is to take place at 9.30 pm.
As of now, the JO simply does not have the numbers to win the vote.
Under the best circumstances the JO would have got only 101 (54 from its own ranks, 41 from the SLFP, and six from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) making a total of 101.
The United National Party (UNP) and the United National Front (UNF) headed by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe would have got 112 (106 of its own ranks plus 16 from the Tamil National Alliance).
The UNP/UNF combine had been streets ahead of the JO and SLFP right from the start.
But the current position is that JO will get only a part of the SLFP vote as one section has declared that it will abstain, and another section has said that it will vote against the motion.
This means that the JO-SLFP will land up with less than originally expected, and the UNP-UNF will get more than expected. Therefore Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesnghe is expected to sail through the NCM debate and voting.
The main reason for the split in the SLFP is President Maithripala Sirisena’s view that the present coalition government should continue till the end of its term in 2020.
Although at odds with Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, the President has come round to the view that Wickremesinghe should be allowed to stay on in his post if he has the required backing in his party and in the parliament.
And Wickremesinghe has proved that he has the near full support of his party UNP and his alliance UNF.
Additionally, the President is aware that the Prime Minister cannot be sacked by him after parliament passed the 19 th.Constititutional Amendment in 2015.
According to the 19 th. Amendment, the Prime Minister will vacate his office only on his death or after he ceases to be a Member of Parliament or after his “government” loses the vote on a money or appropriation bill or a No Confidence Motion.
Note that Art 48 (2) clearly states that the NCM will have to be against the government as a whole and not merely against the Prime Minister as a person.
Thus the JO may have made a mistake by filing an NCM against Wickremesinghe personally. The NCM should have been against the government as a whole.
But the JO did not want to file an NCM against the government as a whole, because it wanted to woo the President and his party, the SLFP, to form a united SLFP-JO government without the UNP.